The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
an overview
French cultural policy enters pivotal era
French cultural policy enters pivotal era.

*3 FRAC fonds régionaux d’art contemporain
(regional contemporary art funds)

Established in 1982 the aim of these funds was to heighten the sensitivity of local citizens to the contemporary arts (including painting, sculpture, photography, decorative arts and crafts). Besides collecting of works, they also engaged in the lending of works between localities. Work acquisitions are based on decisions by independent committees of specialists in each locality. The committees are made up of regional legislators, independent specialists and representatives from the national government. The present budget of FRAC funds for work acquisitions represents about one half of the total public budget for acquisition of contemporary art.

*4 FRAM fonds régionaux d’acquisition des musées
(regional museum acquisition funds)

Established in 1982 the aim of promoting the activities of local art museums under the same system as FRAC.

*5 COREPHAE commissions régionales du patrimoine historique, archéologique, et ethnologique
(regional commissions for historical, archeological and ethnic patronage)
These are advisory committees for the designation of cultural and historical assets and monuments in the various regions. Their aim was to give local populations a voice in the selection of cultural properties and assets.
The actualities of regional division of governance
Now let us turn to the question of the actual degree to which the cultural policies Lang set in motion were effective in achieving their aims. Let us also ask if his were actually revolutionary policies that contrasted significantly with Mitterrand’s aims.
A recent study by Kim Eling suggests that the seemingly impressive French cultural policy is in fact not as revolutionary as many think, and also that is not really centralized in nature. In fact, Eling insists that the decision-making process in France’s cultural programs is in practice not much different from the British system based primarily on third-party organizations.
For example, a look at the actual state of division of power to the localities reveals that the Ministry of Culture has not completely transferred power to the local governments. Rather, through the formation of supporting organizations like the regional contemporary art funds FRAC (*3), the regional museum acquisition funds FRAM (*4) and the regional commissions for historical, archeological and ethnic patronage COREPHAE (*5), the Ministry has further divided power and created working partnerships. The Ministry also expanded its network of regional culture bureaus and sent personnel and funds to them. Even more important was the fact that a contract system was implemented and the regional bureaus incorporated into it.
This meant that in reality the ability of the local governments to allocate funds for cultural programs was constrained by the contracts signed with the regional culture bureaus. In other words, the new policy sent more government funds to the regions but only to be allotted by a system that retained the old paternal attitude of national governance. It is also that in actual practice the regional bureaus to this day are given annual instruction by the Ministry of Culture about their selections of which regional bodies to give priority to in funding. And, in fact regional governments that were not used to this kind of negotiation a were most likely to accept the suggestions of the Ministry as the “results of true dialogue.”
Of course, this contract system was not implemented with complete disregard for the wishes of the regional governments. In reality, there was no tendency for funding to be concentrated in certain regions, and in 1982 all the regional governments signed contracts and most of those were subsequently renewed.
Furthermore, these contracts served to stimulate investment activities by the regional governments. And, most of all, the combined budget of the regional governments for cultural activities has come to exceed that of the national government, including the Ministry of Culture, as a result of the new policy.
However, this can also be interpreted as a situation that gives the Ministry of Culture the right to intervene in decisions about policy by the regional governments at no expense of its own. According to Eling, this means that from the standpoint of the regional governments, having the Ministry of Culture as a partner in their cultural policies ensures the “quality” of their programs. And that is proof of how powerful the value judgments of the Ministry and its subsidiary regional culture bureaus are.
Even more evident in terms of this inequality between the central and regional governments was the Grand Project. Although the national funding for cultural programs has tended to increase year by year, the percentage of budget allotted for the Grand Project rose from just 15% in 1981 to nearly 70% by 1986. This meant that less budget could be directed to other art and cultural programs, which natural required a reduction in size of the other programs. Of course the policy of division of power toward the regional governments also suffered as a result of the Grand Project. For example, the budget allotted for division of power in 1985 was 126 million francs, but that was cut in half to 63 million in 1986. What’s more, all of the Grand Project’s construction projects were in Paris, which clearly ran contrary to the socialist parties’ of regional division of power.
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